Hi my name is Mick Stillwell, I’m now 54 years old and I suffer from Ankylosing Spondylitis.
My journey stated in 1997, I owned a number of businesses at the time which were mainly retail fuel stations with retail shops attached, I employed about 20 staff and was a respected business man, I also ran a small tour company about 50 miles from where I lived and I spent most of the weekends involved in this.
As you can tell I was very active seven days a week and it was not unknown for me to work 36 hours without a break.
It all started with a swelling in my knee which ballooned up for no apparent reason and was very uncomfortable, my knee had fluid which was drained every couple of weeks, within 24 hrs it was always back to its swollen state, I was eventually referred to a specialist who could find no apparent reason for this ailment, after twelve months of this my back also started to give me pain, after various tests I was eventually referred to a senior consultant, he was also baffled to what was wrong, on a visit to my doctor he referred me to an Osteopath for my back problems, after my first visit I came out crying in pain, however I stuck with it, two visits, three visits all with the same result ! I went back to the doctors again but he insisted I stick with it, I did for a couple more visits but when I was in tears and being physically sick outside I had to call it day.
In the mean time my consultant had arranged a series of X Rays, these revealed that I had no cartilage in my right hip and would need a total replacement, my knee was diagnosed as deferred pain from my hip, at this point I had sold all my businesses but was kept on as a manager for my former shops, the tour company was closed down at the same point.
It was now the year 2000 unfortunately at this point it was getting difficult to work and I was struggling, I then got a new boss and was promoted, this allowed me to supervise other managers and carry out audits in our branches which was easier for me. 2001 came and went and we arrived into 2002, I had been on the hospital waiting list for over two years now with still little hope of getting my hip replacement.
One Sunday I was at home completing e-mails when on the television there was an announcement about our health service and had it let you down, my wife suggested I send them a e-mail which I did, the e-mail was read out live on the television so I had a little coverage about how long I had been waiting, I might add that some hospitals in the country were being closed down which would just make the situation worse.
That afternoon I went to my in-laws for Sunday lunch, pretty much a normal day, when we arrived home the phone was ringing, I answered and it was a reporter from the BBC (British
Broadcasting Corporation) the main television company here in the UK, they wanted to come round in the morning with a film crew to interview me, which I agreed to, then the BBC radio guy called who wanted to interview me in the morning by telephone which I agreed to again.
With the interviews complete and broadcast it was then the turn of the newspapers and I appeared in a number of papers, The BBC were about to complete a live programme with the Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair and they invited me to attend, unfortunately my appearance was later cancelled, however the P.M. knew about me and on 1st March 2002 my operation was completed, little did I know this was just the start of another journey.
After a week in hospital it was time to spend a little time to recover at home, however my movement got worse and I was also having bowl problems, having movements at least ten times a day. My doctor put the blood in my movements as Piles ! I couldn’t leave the house apart from my hydrotherapy once a week, but I was getting worse and worse, becoming de-hydrated and was re-admitted to hospital, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis and the correct medication was given to put this in check
It was now July 2002 and I could hardly move, my knee was still swollen and life was very difficult, my poor wife and family !
In August I was referred to Rheumatology, I met the doctor who took one look at me and said “ I thought you had a hip replacement” I said I have ! She then invited me in I was very bent over and could no longer raise my head, my wife had taken me to the hospital but had left me there as she was getting fed up with all my appointments.
Basically she asked me my story, much of what I’ve written here, She then said “ I know what’s wrong with you, you’ve got Ankylosing Spondylitis” which at that time meant nothing to me, she arranged a blood test and X rays which confirmed she was correct !
With the right diagnosis at long last, the correct medication and exercise things improved, I found an office based job which I still work in today. Which suits my condition fine, I can sit & walk around as needed.
Family life has been very difficult, my wife also contracted a condition which meant she spent a lot of time doing physical exercise, something I could not join in with, she also walked or cycled very long distances which I could not take part in.
My wife’s first husband also had Ankylosing Spondylitis and his condition was one of the main reasons she left him, unfortunately our life’s became incompatible and she left me too.
A new chapter of my life has opened, trying to fend for myself, it’s not been easy and I’ve fallen trying to do things more than once, how ever I have now met many friends on-line with the same condition which I am grateful for, this is my story !
Portchester, Fareham, Hampshire, United Kingdom
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